In the last week, the Age/Sydney Morning Herald sisterhood has engaged in one of the craziest, most hysterical anti-communist campaigns we’ve ever seen, a direct throwback to the early, nutso days of the Vietnam War. Titled Red Alert,– yes, really – and illustrated with a red sky swarming with Chinese jets on their way to Australia – yes, really – once were journalists Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott authored a series of articles and videos, all pointing to the imminent threat that China poses to Australia. The series is based upon a “review” by a panel, concocted by Hartcher and Knott, of five “independent” “experts”. The panel concluded,
The overwhelming source of danger to Australia is from China. The nature of the threat extends to the prospect of a full-scale war – and Australia would have to be involved. … We need to be ready to fight in just three years …
It is almost impossible to describe the level of bug-eyed insanity of these people. Almost every one of their hundreds of paragraphs is laced with unintended irony, beginning with the first:
… a group of five experts … who blew away the fog of war to give Australians some critical points of honest insight.
The fog of war? What goddam war? It is, in a way, a masterpiece to employ such an expression in the creation of a fog of peace.
One more quick one. The series concluded with a manifesto, a “Joint Expert Statement“. Here, the “experts” provide twenty-two points on how Australia might save itself from doom, including,
20. Australia should be prepared to break political taboos to survive a confrontation with an aggressive great power. Other countries have introduced, or reintroduced, compulsory national service to boost the people’s preparedness. This can be civil or military, or both, and it can be voluntary or mandatory.
These brave, taboo-violating lunatics are seriously suggesting Australia should reintroduce “compulsory national service”. For people to do what, exactly? Yell at the jets? And, this compulsory national service “can be voluntary or mandatory”. It’s a shame Hartcher and Knott weren’t able to find an expert on logic or the English language.
There is no need to provide a detailed debunking of this insanity, since Red Alert collapses immediately under the weight of its own absurdity. Colin Mackerras, who is an expert on China, tore into the “expert panel” and their “analysis”. Mackerras also noted the “expert panel” was strongly associated with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a militarily aligned and pro-American group, which, according to Mackerras, “was set up … for the express purpose of creating a bad China image”: exactly the guys you’d want to grab for an open-minded and sober analysis of relations with China.
Paul Keating also ripped into the “expert panel” in the way only Keating can. Hartcher responded (38:45) by referring to Keating, twice (16:40), as “the leading defender of and apologist for the Chinese Communist Party”. Hartcher demonstrated admirable restraint in not referring to Keating as a fellow traveller.
Pretty much everybody has ripped into Hartcher and Knott for their nonsense. But, not everybody (16:20):
Great honest framing, Bev.
Yeah, the problem here is clearly Chinese paranoia. Thank God for the ABC.
For those seeking a thorough trashing of Knott’s and Hartcher’s trash, Caitlin Johnstone has done a great job (here, here, here and here). As flagged by our title, however, we’re here for a more specific reason. We’re here to consider one particular “expert” from the “expert panel”: Alan Finkel.
Four of Hartcher and Knott’s “experts” are the predictable and deliberately chosen hawks: smug, self-important Kissinger wannabe warmongers. But the fifth, Finkel, is not, or at least not obviously. Finkel is a scientist, trained as an electrical engineer and neuroscientist, and was Australia’s chief scientist from 2016 to 2020. This hardly seems to qualify Finkel for such an “expert panel”. So what is Finkel doing there?
Ostensibly, Finkel is included because of concerns for cybersecurity and AI and the like, but this is absurd. There are genuine computer scientists, genuinely expert on such matters, who would have been much more natural to have consulted. More generally, there is zero reason to believe Finkel has anything more than a rank amateur’s understanding of threats to Australia, and Finkel’s understanding of China would have to be close to zero.
Not that his amateurishness stopped Finkel fearmongering along with the rest of them:
… at the 99 per cent level, I agree, it’s all about China.
Don’t underestimate the technological capacity of China.
Life is easy here and that leads to complacency. What works during peacetime isn’t going to be appropriate for conflict.
Twenty years shouldn’t even come into the discussion. We have to invest in our biosecurity, our cybersecurity, our military hardware as if it might happen tomorrow.
And on and on and on.
Clearly, the reason Finkel was chosen was because Hartcher and Knott were sure enough that Finkel would say all the right wrong things. How could they know this? It is difficult to be sure, but Finkel’s time as Chief Scientist provides a clue. During that time, Finkel was happy to be Scott Morrison’s compliant stooge, nodding along to ScoMoFo’s fossil fuel idiocy. Was this because Finkel was himself an idiot, happy to pontificate on matters well outside his expertise? Or, was it because he was devoid of principle? Does it matter?
In any case, Hartcher and Knott clearly knew that Finkel was the pseudo-expert scientist they required. And Finkel complied. What an asshole.
Paul Keating was on the National Press Club and ripped into everyone:
Here’s a couple highlights, including the ripping into Hartcher’s smug mate, Matthew Knott:
Unsurprisingly, the SMH/Age editors, Bevan “It’s a Strike” Shields and Patrick Elligett, didn’t take kindly to Keating’s, and Media Watch‘s, trashing of their trash, and the editors fired back with some truly revolting sanctimony. In particular they were deeply, deeply offended by Keating referring to the “well-respected Hartcher” as a “psychopath” and a “maniac”.
Arguably, Keating was too restrained, and Freddie Blassie came to our mind. Perhaps it better fits the bill to refer to Hartcher and Knott as grit eatin’, scum suckin’, boot lickin’, drop kickin’, gut grindin’, nail bitin’, glue sniffin’, scab pickin’, butt scratchin’, egg hatchin’, sleazy, smelly, pepper bellied, dirty, lousy, rotten, stinkin’, freaks. Yeah, that works for us.